Though the government is mulling offering free visas to Chinese tourists to rev up demand, the market has been hammered by economic woes and a weak currency, which when coupled with flight and staff shortages could mean the scheme will have little impact, says the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta).
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of Atta, said the Federation of Thai Tourism Associations and the Tourism Authority of Thailand are drafting a white paper they plan to submit to the premier and cabinet later this month.
He said the urgent issues include attracting more tourists and reaffirming that Thailand is a safe destination for travellers.
Adith Chairattananon, honorary secretary-general of Atta, said there are two methods of implementation for the Chinese visa policy.
The first method is to allow Chinese visitors to enter without visa, within a certain period of 3-6 months, which will immediately boost this market. The second way is to waive the visa fee but still require travellers to apply for a visa, which is more appropriate for security.
If the government chooses either way, this would help entice Chinese people who travel via neighbouring countries and use visa-on-arrival, as well as groups with 100-1,000 travellers.
However, this policy alone could not help stimulate this market as many Chinese travel companies have yet to recover due to a lack of workers and higher operating costs, unlike big firms that can rapidly adjust their businesses.
He said even though Chinese travel agents are optimistic about policies from the new government, they are awaiting more clarity about tourism measures, such as those regarding visas.
Demand among Chinese tourists to visit Thailand has not been strong, compared to domestic travel, as they are concerned about taking overseas trips due to economic pressure and the weak yuan, though the currency might not be a critical concern as the baht has also weakened.
Negative images of Thailand are circulating on Chinese social media, particularly regarding safety, which makes them reluctant to travel, said Mr Adith.
Recruiting more staff to return and adding flight capacity to Thailand will take some time to reach normal levels.
Mr Adith said he expects the visa plan to come with relevant tourism policies, including increasing flight capacity. The government should accelerate this agenda before mid-September to boost the Chinese market to 5 million by the year-end.